Tuesday, 11 August 2015


Yma o hyd - Dafydd Iwan (Still here)





The next song we're going to tackle is the famous Welsh song Yma o hyd by Dafydd Iwan. I'm sure this is a song that we've all heard at some point, most likely at times of national pride. Think: Rugby. 

So, let's kick things off ;)
Here's the first verse, let's break it down into more digestible chunks: 


Dwyt ti'm yn cofio Macsen,
Does neb yn ei nabod o;
Mae mil a chwe chant o flynyddoedd
Yn amser rhy hir i'r cof
;
Pan aeth Magnus Maximus o Gymru
Yn y flwyddyn tri-chant-wyth-tri,
A'n gadael yn genedl gyfan
A heddiw: wele ni
!

Dwyt ti'm yn cofio Macsen: You don't remember Macsen (proper noun, some guy's name)
So, in Welsh we all know that 'rwyt ti' is equivalent to the English 'you are'.
It's simply the second person singular form of verb 'bod' ('to be').

'Rwyt ti'n cofio' means 'you remember'

So what about 'Dwyt ti'? Well, 'dwyt ti (ddim)' means 'you don't'. To form the negative, you need to add the particle 'ddim' immediately after the subject 'ti'. This leaves us with, 'Dwyt ti ddim yn cofio'

Look closely: 'Dwyt ti'm yn cofio' - here the 'ddim' has just been contracted, just like 'do not' becomes 'don't'. 

So, here, 'dwyt ti'm cofio' means 'you don't remember'.

'Cofio' - 'to remember' (in the infinitive i.e, unconjugated verb form that you'll find in a dictionary)  

So, who's Macsen? Macsen Wledig AKA Magnus Maximus was the Western Roman Emperor (commander of Britain) from 383 to 388. As well as featuring in important Welsh texts, legend has it he married a Welsh Princess named Elen. This guy wanted to grant Wales more autonomy, and left having largely done so. Dafydd Iwan is using Macsen as a symbol of the Nation, urging the Welsh to resist our subjugation at the hands of England, just as we had done with the Roman Empire. 



Does neb yn ei nabod o - Nobody remember him

Think about 'does' like the negative of 'mae'. 

'neb' - nobody 

'nabod' (or 'adnabod') - 'to know/recognize' (Welsh has two verbs for the English 'to know' - 'adnabod' is mainly used for people - 'gwybod' is the other. Romance languages such as Spanish have two forms too, 'conocer' & 'saber').

'ei' - 'him' 

'o' - emphasizes the subject

Mae mil a chwe chant o flynyddoedd - A thousand six hundred years

'mil' - thousand

'a' - and 

'chwe chant' - six hundred - 'chwe(ch)' ('six') + 'cant' ('100') ('chant' after 'six' - some numbers cause 'treiglo' or 'mutation') 

'Treiglo' (mutation): 'c' changes to 'ch' after 'a' (meaning 'and')

Yn amser rhy hir i'r cof -  lit. Is too long a time for the memory (too long ago to remember)

'Yn' - 'is' 

'amser' - time

'rhy' - 'too'

'hir' - 'long' 

'i'r' - 'for the' -- 'i' + 'y' ('for' + 'the') becomes " 'r " - easier to pronounce than two vowels side-by-side - that would leave an awkward gap in pronunciation which would sound something like 'ee--urgh' --> 'i'r' (eer = easier)

'cof' - 'memory' -- this word is hidden inside 'cofio' ('to remember')

Pan aeth Magnus Maximus o Gymru - When Magnus Maximus (Macsen) left (went from) Wales

'Pan' - 'when'

'aeth' - '(he) went' ('bod')

'o' - 'from'

'Gymru' ('Cymru' - 'Wales') - after the prepostion 'o' verbs mutate (treiglo yn feddal) 'C' becomes 'G'. In a forthcoming post, I'll post a table of the mutations ('treigladau'), and try to explain them a little. 

Notice the weird word order: Welsh is a VSO language - Verb-Subject-Object language -- English an SVO - Subject-Verb-Object language. These two word orders are among the more common in world languages. 

So: VSO - Aeth (verb) + Magnus Maximus (subject) + Cymru (object)


Yn y flwyddyn tri-chant-wyth-tri - In the year three hundred and eight three

'Yn' (preposition) - 'in'

'y' - 'the'

'blwyddyn' - 'year' ('y flwyddyn' -- All singular feminine nouns mutate softly in Welsh: 'b' --> 'f') 

A'n gadael yn genedl gyfan - And leaving us a full nation

'A' - 'and' (again)

'ein' - 'us'

'gadael' - 'to leave'

'yn' - purely grammatical here, no 
Notice: in an earlier post I mentioned 'yn' is sometimes a particle that links verbs with other parts of speech.

'cenedl' - 'nation' (another soft mutation - 'c' --> 'g')

'cyfan' - 'whole' -- words mutate softly after single feminine nouns -- 'c' --> 'g'


A heddiw: wele ni! - And today: we'll see!

'a' - 'and'

'heddiw' - 'today'

'wele ni!' - 'we'll see' -- an interjection of sorts, 'wele' is from the verb 'gweled' (to see) & 'ni' means 'we' / 'us'

Now time for the Chorus!:

Ry'n ni yma o hyd,
Ry'n ni yma o hyd
,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

Ry'n ni yma o hyd.
Ry'n ni yma o hyd,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth
Ry'n ni yma o hyd.

Ry'n ni yma o hyd,

'Ry'n ni' -- 'we're' (contracted)  *Remember 'ni' from a moment ago? 'Ni' = 'we'/'us'

'Rydym ni' - 'we are' is the uncontracted version - it's the verb 'bod' ('to be') again!

'yma' - 'here'

'o hyd'- 'still'

so, literally, 'we are here still'.


Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth

'er gwaetha(f)' - 'despite'

'pawb' - everyone

'a' - and

'popeth' - everything ('pob' + 'peth' = 'every' + 'thing', haha) *Notice p --> ph after 'a' (meaning 'and' - Treiglad llaes - a mutation)

Lots and lots of repetition here in the chorus!

Stay turned for Part Two and explanations of the Second and Third verses. 

Hwyl am y tro! :D (Bye for now)


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